Kitchen experimentation gone horribly right: an accidental potage adapted from a Biba Caggiano pasta recipe that has since found its way into mac 'n' cheese (no need to make a bechamel; this *is* your bechamel, and because of its already-cheesy flavor profile, you can drastically cut back on the amount of additional cheese called for in your preferred recipe); to sauce a bowl of steamed broccoli (pictured; it's that frozen 10 oz package of Green Giant from your childhood, all grown up); as a base for something hearty in the vein of Beef Burgundy; or simply spooned over a thick slab of grilled or toasted rye bread, a la Welsh Rarebit (or spread between two slices for a fun play on grilled cheese!). This also works as a soup, either hot or cold--I'd recommend garnishing with bacon bits, pickled shallots, slivers of raw endive, and a smattering of chopped thyme (or lemon thyme) leaves. —Chris Hagan
Heat oven to 450F. Toss fresh mushrooms with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme sprigs. Spread out on a lined baking sheet and roast 10-12 mins or until it smells like awesome. Remove from oven, discard thyme sprigs, and set mushrooms aside. Meanwhile, warm 2 cups chicken broth with reserved fresh mushroom stems and parmigiano heel. When it comes to a gentle boil, remove from heat and add dried mushrooms. Cover and let steep.
Warm 2 tbsp olive oil and chopped bacon together over medium-low heat. When it has rendered its fat and begun to brown, add turmeric, 2 tbsp butter and the leeks. Lower heat, cover, and let stew for about 5 mins. Remove cover and add shallots and garlic, and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add carrot, endive, and potato and continue to sweat, another few mins, until they start to soften as well. Add the roasted mushrooms, then clear a little hole in the middle of the pan and add tomato paste. Let it take on a little color, then stir to incorporate into the vegetables. Raise heat to medium (or medium-high; my stovetop runs pretty hot) and add Worcestershire sauce. Give a quick stir, then add the white wine. Cook until reduced by half, 2 or 3 mins. Strain the infused chicken broth into the pan, pressing down on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the parmesean heel to the pan mixture and let it continue to do its thing. Stir in the heavy cream. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, until flavor is well-developed, 15-20 mins, although it won’t hurt if you let it go longer.
Uncover and remove from heat. The sauce will look greasy and broken. That’s ok, because it will emulsify when pureed, which is what you do next: Once it’s cooled a little, fish out the parmesean heel, then work in batches and puree in a blender or food processor until completely smooth, a minute or two. Alternatively, you can do this directly in the pan using an immersion blender. If you think it needs it (it may not), add the juice of up to half a lemon and adjust for salt and pepper. Finish with chopped fresh thyme or lemon thyme leaves. Serve over grilled bread a la Welsh Rarebit, or to sauce cooked broccoli, or as a base for mac and cheese. (Note: If serving with pasta and you want to keep the texture of the cooked vegetables, simply strain out the liquid and emulsify it before returning it to the pan along with the cooked pasta and a little of the cooking water.)